CUPE 4600 member Cihan Erdal says solidarity from CUPE members was a lifeline during his nine-month imprisonment on trumped-up charges in Turkey.

Erdal has shared a message of thanks and solidarity with the thousands of people, including many CUPE members, who took action in Canada and around the world to demand his release and safe return to Canada. You can read his entire message below.

Erdal has been out of jail for a month but he isn’t completely free yet. He was conditionally released on June 15 after presenting his defence but can’t leave the country and could still face more time in prison.

He was swept up and jailed without cause on September 25, 2020 as part of a mass arrest of politicians, activists and academics. Pressure to win his release started in Canada, with CUPE’s full support, and grew into a global campaign that targeted key Canadian and Turkish officials.

From the beginning of his ordeal, Erdal knew CUPE had his back. His partner Omer Ongun sent him weekly letters while he was in jail, updating him on the campaign to set him free. News of the widespread support for his situation gave Erdal “tremendous strength and resilience.”

Erdal is a PhD sociology student at Carleton University and a queer youth activist. He’s living with friends in Istanbul until his case is resolved and is looking ahead to the next steps in the struggle to bring him home. He says he’s eager to resume his research – work that he kept going even while he was in jail, thanks to a network of academic support.

He says his release is an important reminder that “unions matter, and democratic spaces of solidarity are how we can ultimately win.”

Stay up to date on Cihan’s campaign and how you can help bring him home to Canada by following @FreeCihanErdal on Twitter, and the hashtag #FreeCihanErdal.

Dear members of CUPE,

Please accept my heartfelt thanks for the invaluable support and solidarity you showed in the campaign for my freedom.

I am writing to you from Istanbul, where I am living with friends but not yet fully free.

As you may know, I was given the opportunity to make my presentation before a panel of judges on June 15, 2021. That same day, following resumption of the trial, three accused politicians and myself were granted an interim release from prison. However, we are required by judicial order to remain in the country and must submit to and appear at the court as required.

While we are happy about this positive development, it is possible that the interim release order may be revoked at any moment if requested by the prosecution. I am unable to reunite with my spouse, friends, and colleagues in Canada. But I am strong knowing that I will make it to my home in Ottawa, hopefully as soon as possible.

I truly felt the privilege of being a member of my union, CUPE, and having the backing of Carleton University and so many other communities, organizations, institutions and individuals from the first moment I was detained in Turkey last September. It not only gave me tremendous strength and resilience during my imprisonment but also showed that unions matter, and democratic spaces of solidarity are how we can ultimately win. We have taken a very important step, and we have achieved it together. Now the struggle continues for my safe return to Canada.

As an activist-academic, I will continue defending the truth, believing that the rule of law, human rights, democracy, and freedom will have certainly won in Turkey, Europe, Canada and across the world. I am also looking forward to resuming my research, producing knowledge that is beneficial for young people and for social movements.

I extend gratitude to every member of CUPE who created a circle of solidarity and goodness around us, who created a feeling of togetherness, who grew hope for change.


Cihan Erdal